Books for Poly Living



One of the hardest things about living a polyamorous life is that you don’t have many role models. Friends may think you’re crazy. You may be too afraid to tell family. You may know absolutely no one else who lives like this. But luckily, there are a few authors that have your back.

There are lots of poly-leaning books out there, but these are the ones we have read and enjoyed. They’ve each helped us on our poly journey.

ryan#1: Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, Christopher Ryan

This book was the first one that helped us feel like maybe there were other people in the world who felt like us. It challenges monogamy-based thinking on sex and relationships by examining how our ancestors lived and how some isolated societies continue to live.

The basic premise of Sex at Dawn is that we humans did not originally evolve to live monogamously. Many of us live monogamously today because of societal norms and pressures. And while some of us succeed, many others do not. It gives some biological basis for humans to stray from our monogamous ways by looking at anthropological and biological clues that may point to how human relationships evolved.

J: “It was the first book that came up when I was researching loving more than one person —  when I was trying to put words to what I was feeling. After reading it, I felt like I wasn’t a crazy person. There were other people who felt this way. It’s not just greed. It’s an evolutionary thing. To me, it proves that we’ll go back to this way of life whether we like it or not. We’re meant to live communally, and it’s what makes the most sense.”

C: “Good book.”

E: “It’s a relatively objective, facts-based treatise on the realities of human sexual attraction and mate selection.”

K: “I love books that come from an evolutionary perspective. My favorite part is the chart on penis vs testicle size. Because it’s hilarious.”

#2: More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory, Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert

Where Sex at Dawn is the science/history behind polyamory, More Than Two is our roadmap. The book was actually published via a crowdfunding campaign in 2013, which just shows how much people needed such a guide. It covers the basics (like how we’re different from swingers), relationship models (we’re in a quad), and best of all, how to manage and enjoy our relationships through communication, trust, and honesty. The book never pressures you try anything or judges in any way. It also shares short vignettes from people who have been living the poly lifestyle for years. Veaux and Rickert are the poly guides we needed to find. We bought three for our group.

More than Two
How many copies of this did we need? More than two. (Bad joke credit: C)

K: “When I read the book, I took a pen to it to highlight sections, write in my own thoughts, and make notes to share with the quad. It was invaluable as a guide when setting up our quad agreements (more on those later) – we basically used it as a worksheet. I have been using its phrases and techniques to talk about poly since cracking open its pages. It was a lifesaver.”

E: “This book definitely changed the way I live my life. I especially appreciated the sections about communication styles and agreements.”

J: “It’s a unbiased guide to polyamory. Since we don’t have a lot of role models, it’s an excellent resource to help us on our journey.”

C: “Good book.”

ethical#3: The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy

Originally published in 1997, this book has seen updated editions to include many more of the ever-expanding relationship models we humans find ourselves in. The Ethical Slut is a wide-ranging guide that covers issues of jealousy, kink, conflict, and scheduling with special attention to many LGBTQ and other subcultures.

K: “I read this one early on and, though not as helpful as More Than Two, it still served as a way to start a dialogue with C about jealousy and communication. It’s a weird, scary world that we stepped into, and it’s nice to know there is more than one guide out there. I appreciated all the side stories from people who have lived this way for decades.”

coontz#4: Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, Stephanie Coontz

This book isn’t about polyamory, but does give an interesting historical breakdown of how marriage evolved to the status quo of today. For poly people, the great part of this book is learning about how the monogamous marriage was not always a thing. Agriculture, land inheritance, women’s rights, and power all had a role in shaping the way marriage is today.

K: “Marriage has always been evolving. There’s no one way to do it. Coontz’s book really reinforced, for me, how I can shape marriage in the way that best works for me.”

aphrodites#5: Aphrodite’s Daughters: Women’s Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul, Jalaja Bonheim

This book shares intimate, true stories of women who have often dealt with some sexual or relationship abuse or hardship, how they healed, and how they are now living remarkable, transformed lives.

J: Aphrodite’s Daughters: Women’s Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul is like getting to talk to your fore-mothers or grandmothers about the things the older women in our lives should have told us about sex and relationships, but because we live in a sex-negative culture, we don’t hear these things. It was nice to read something where it felt like they were talking directly to me. All the women in this book have lived longer lives than we have, and we get to learn from their stories. As a woman, it pushes us to speak up for ourselves and find our voices.

savage#5: (Honorable mention) Savage Lovecast

Yeah, this is a podcast, not a book. But Dan Savage’s podcast (both the free and paid version) has been one of the most helpful resources we have found. Real life people call in with questions and Dan, who coined the term “monogamish,” is there to answer without judgement and with very sound advice. It’s a sex and relationship advice podcast, so while it covers a wide range of issues, there is almost always something we can apply to our own lives. Though we haven’t read it yet, Dan also has a book, American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, that comes out of decades of being a columnist, activist, and writer.

If you’re interested in polyamory or relationships in general, give one of these books a shot. If you’ve read some that you like, comment below!

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